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Fulmer earns White Sox rotation spot

Right-hander beats out Santiago, likely to make team as long reliever, for final rotation slot
MLB.com @alysonfooter

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sometime in between his start against the Diamondbacks last Monday and his outing against Rangers Minor Leaguers on Saturday, Carson Fulmer was given assurance by the White Sox coaching staff that he will be part of the club's rotation to begin the regular season.

That gave the 24-year-old Fulmer clearance to relax while pitching in the Minor League game, knowing this wasn't so much an audition as it was a tune-up.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Sometime in between his start against the Diamondbacks last Monday and his outing against Rangers Minor Leaguers on Saturday, Carson Fulmer was given assurance by the White Sox coaching staff that he will be part of the club's rotation to begin the regular season.

That gave the 24-year-old Fulmer clearance to relax while pitching in the Minor League game, knowing this wasn't so much an audition as it was a tune-up.

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That was a far cry from the pressure Fulmer was faced with throughout the Cactus League season, when every outing -- especially the poor ones -- was scrutinized, and questions arose about his chances to make the team.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't have any pressures," Fulmer said after allowing one earned run over five innings against Rangers Minor Leaguers. "I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity."

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In the end, he did. The March 19 start against the Diamondbacks -- four shutout innings with four strikeouts -- essentially sealed it for the right-hander, who beat out lefty Hector Santiago for the final spot in the rotation.

It will be Fulmer's first Major League Opening Day. His first taste of the big leagues arrived briefly in 2016 and again toward the end of 2017, when he made a lasting impression, pitching to a 3.86 ERA over seven games, including five starts.

"I don't mean to sound cliche when I say this, but it is a dream come true," Fulmer said. "We all work hard to get to this place in our careers. Most of us, the majority of us, are pretty young. To make an Opening Day roster is a monumental achievement in our careers. For me, personally, to be able to experience it here with the rest of my teammates makes it really special for me."

Fulmer will join James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Miguel Gonzalez and Reynaldo Lopez in the rotation. Santiago will likely make the team as a long reliever, a role the Sox will need, given the youth and inexperience of the rotation.

Even before Santiago took the mound in his start against the Dodgers Saturday, he knew his probable regular-season destination was the 'pen.

"I'm open to whatever," Santiago said. "As long as I have a uniform on my back, I'm happy with the job that they give me. Right now, it's in the bullpen as a long guy and I'll be ready for any role."

Video: CWS@LAD: Santiago fans Peter to strike out the side

In the first inning, the Dodgers walked twice and scored three runs, via a three-run homer by Austin Barnes. The remaining three innings of Santiago's outing were less eventful, and the White Sox won, 7-3. The game marked just the second time, and the first since Feb. 24, that Santiago has started a game.

Still, Santiago's sub-1.00 ERA kept him in the running for a starting job, especially as Fulmer continued to struggle. The picture became much clearer after Fulmer's strong outing against the D-backs.

"Coming here to camp, I thought I had a chance to compete for the fifth starter's job," Santiago said. "Obviously, I was competing for it. I threw well, [though] I didn't get stretched out as far as I wanted.

"I think it's a part of their plan -- get a bunch of prospects, rebuild, give them a shot. [Fulmer's] going to be a starter of the future, give him a shot. I'll go to the 'pen -- I don't have a problem with that."

Settling in
The White Sox are showing signs of regular-season readiness on both sides of the game. Offensively, they have scored 42 runs on 73 hits over the past six games, while Sox starting pitchers are 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA (7 ER/27.2 IP) over the same span.

Up next
The White Sox will play their Cactus League finale on Sunday against the Brewers at Camelback Ranch at 2:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Chris Volstad will take the mound for Chicago. Milwaukee's scheduled starter is right-hander Junior Guerra. Fans can watch on MLB.TV.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Chicago White Sox, Carson Fulmer, Hector Santiago